The light changed and the car in front of me moved forward. I followed keeping an eye on the machine behind me. Her head popped back up and she was following me again, grey curls bobbing behind the steering wheel she was clutching tightly with both hands.
She drove in spurts of speed; fast, faster slow. Fast, faster, slow. I caught a glimpse of the speed limit and looked down at my odometer. I was going faster than the allotted 30 mph, my speed increasing subconsciously as she chased me. I took my foot off the accelerator, eased it onto the break and slowed down. She did not.
My rear view mirror was suddenly all wide windshield and shaking grey curls. Instinctively, I speed up not keen on getting rear-ended. The spurts of speed continued; slow, fast, faster, slow. Her beast of a car was weaving across the road, almost in a bush here, across the yellow line there. I worried for the mailboxes but she swerved each time their death seemed intimate
At the next stop sign, I paused, hoping to give the car approaching the intersection to my left time to reach the sign before her. Hoping I could go and he would follow, acting as a buffer between her weapon and me. No such luck. He stopped and, with a nod in his direction, I drove through the intersection looking to confirm he was behind me. He was not. Taking the stop with a brief tap of her break, she sped up.
Somewhat terrified, I continued on my route home, my eyes glancing from the road to my rear view mirror watching the show behind me; fast, faster, slow. The stop sign snuck up on us both. Panicked I slowed and braced for the hit. She stopped abruptly, the car bouncing from the sudden change in pace. Her head ducked out of sight again. I hurried through the intersection, hoping to prevent the inevitable meeting of bumpers. Her head ducked back up, curls bouncing. She was now holding a cigarette in her right hand. Fascinated, I watched as she wove in and out of the yellow lines, taking curves too wide and corners too narrowly. Her car swayed with the constant overcorrection and abrupt stops and starts as we sped through the city of Belle Meade.
At one point a police car approached us in the oncoming lane. I thought about signaling him with my lights but recognized that would likely propel her, in a panic surge, into my Smart’s back end. I continued on, all the while mumbling, “Please don’t hit me. Please don’t hit me.”
We were a team, thrown together by location and bad timing. She almost swerved off the road and into the expensive planting bed. Watching her, I almost took out a small decorative tree in the center medium.
We reached the hill and I sped up, taking it at full speed, my car’s engine protesting at the sudden burst of speed. Pleased that I’d lost her, I relaxed my shoulders and slowed for a stop only to glance in my rear view mirror and spot her hurtling up behind me again, fast, faster, slow. I was now shouting in a sort of a mantra, “Don’t hit me. Don’t hit me. Don’t hit me.” I was getting lightheaded from holding my breath every time she got close. My ten minute drive was an eternity of terror until, finally she turned left, leaving me to breathe again, and amble safely home where I promptly got on the phone and tried to get my mother to give up her car keys. This horror played out in a ’68 VW Bug might be enough to give someone a heart attack.
My mother was not cooperative. California, you have been warned.